Inmates riot, set fire at prison in western Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Hundreds of police and soldiers have retaken control of a prison in western Indonesia following a riot on Thursday, officials said.

Angry inmates set fire to Langkat prison in North Sumatra province, which is designed to house 900 people but now has more than 1,600, said Rika Apriyanti, a spokeswoman for the Correctional Directorate at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry. Most prisoners were convicted of drug offensives.

She said the cause of anger is still being investigated. Local media reports said the riot began when inmates protested against improper treatment by a guard of an inmate who was caught taking crystal methamphetamine into his cell. Other inmates joined the protest and it turned violent.

Television video showed hundreds of prisoners gathered in an open field in the prison compound while black smoke billowed from a building. Burned cars and motorbikes were scattered around the prison.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said a guard and an inmate were injured in the riot, and 16 cars and motorbikes were burned.

Eight fire trucks were mobilized to extinguish the fire and nearly 500 police and soldiers were deployed around the prison to prevent inmates from escaping.

Prasetyo said at least 92 prisoners had been recaptured and about eight remained at large. Police set up roadblocks as they searched for the inmates.

Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia, where overcrowding has become a problem in prisons that are struggling with poor funding and large numbers of people arrested in a war on drugs.

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